July Blog: Upping Your Compensation Negotiation Game

July Blog: Upping Your Compensation Negotiation Game

Featuring:  Lenore Albee, Management Consultant and Career Coach with Washington University in St. Louis - Olin Business School & Retired Consulting Partner

As professional women, negotiation is a facet of our everyday lives. “Regardless of where you are in your career – early stage, mid-stage or later-stage – you need to know how to negotiate,” says Lenore Albee, whose multi-decade career has included multiple salary negotiations and $100M professional services deals. 

Though deals have different characteristics, Lenore shares the general approaches which will help you become a better negotiator: effective preparation, avoiding common failures, and knowing some insider secrets.

How Do You Effectively Prepare?

  • Have the right mindset. You’re not going in there to “beat the other guy.”  Neither party wants to feel like they have lost. Just be confident that you will represent yourself well and don’t go past the point of hurting the relationship.

  • Know the difference between “worth” and “market value.” Salary negotiations are not about what you deserve, but what the market will bear. Thinking of “worth” is quicksand, like “I don’t deserve to make that much.” Guys don’t think about that! Turn it into value-based ROI internal discussion of: “What is my business case? What am I offering and why do I want to do this?” 

  • In career negotiations, think through your ideal compensation package. Compensation could include salary, bonus structure, benefits, remote work options, travel compensation, office space, paid time off and more. Do your research on salary. Identify comparable jobs and salary ranges, and where you would fit in that range (Resources are below). 

  • Don’t ask for something they cannot possibly give you. For example, in consulting, non-experienced new hires are all brought in at same base salary. Signing bonus and relocation are negotiable, but starting salary is not. 

  • Put something “on the table” (in your package) that you can give up when you are in the negotiation, but not something that hurts. For instance, you may give away extra vacation or better parking space and say, “Well, how about if I give up the vacation and parking and you give me $20K more.” 

  • Know your walk-away point: for example, you need to make more than $X, don’t settle for less, but be professional about declining it.

  • Practice. “A colleague who teaches in the business school recommends that we negotiate on everyday stuff, just to get comfortable with it. Ask for a different table at a restaurant. Ask for a discount on a purchase. When your kids or siblings ask for something, say, “Sure,” and ask for something in return. Get comfortable with asking,” says Lenore.

 What Should You Avoid?

  • Don’t be too aloof; tell them how much you want it. Show your enthusiasm for the job but be prepared to walk away if necessary.

  • Don’t walk into a negotiation without knowing comparables, your target salary, and your “walk away number.” Again, resources are below. 

  • The number thrown out first, loses.” When asked for your salary expectations, say, “I’m looking for a fair salary, with the opportunity to grow and quality of work.” Wait for them to present a salary range.

  • If they press you for a number, never start with number you want to end at. Present a number over that by about 10%. Higher than that may be so far out of the range it stops conversation. 

  • Always ask politely and never present ultimatums like: “This number or I walk away” or “This is a dealbreaker” unless it truly is. If you know you want the job but are at an impasse, ask for something they CAN give you if they won’t budge on salary, like vacation time.

Insider Secrets: What You May Not Realize

  • In hiring negotiations, HR’s job to bring you on board. They want you to be happy, feel valued, and get the hire completed as soon as possible.

  • Generally, you will NOT negotiate with hiring manager, so there is less fear of damaging a relationship with the person you will be working with/for day to day. HR professionals expect to negotiate, so you be more assertive without impairing the relationship. Usually, they have some leeway on salary and benefits (unless your “ask” is out of the ballpark). 

  • Americans can be “more polite” than those from other countries who are used to bargaining. Don’t be shy – no one else is going to speak for you. A good way to keep the conversation going is by saying, “I notice that comparable organizations are offering X. Can you see your way to offering X?” 

  • If the compensation discussions start out lowballing you and HR is not in the position of offering more, that should show you something about the company. If you know other packages are usually better, you will not feel good about their offer, and it may not be the place you want to be. This may be the time to walk away.

  • If HR is not willing to or cannot raise the salary number, another option is to agree on the number but ask to be considered for the next promotion sooner (which comes with a salary increase), especially if you know you will already performing at that level. Or, negotiate that if there is another (higher) opening available, they are going to tell you.

  • In your research on public companies, you may be able to see when reviews are and opportunities for promotion and pay raises will present themselves at the executive level. It depends on the organization, and when they publish announcements or if executives are exempted from HR calendar.

Our negotiation ability evolves as we get more practice and experience success. Incorporating these suggestions will help us all up our negotiations game and more often attain those results we want. Reach out to Lenore at: Lenore.Albee@mindspring.com.


Websites for Accurate Market Salary Information:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics (all occupations)
  • Career Services departments in your university(ies)
  • Industry or Association Websites
  • Indeed.com (but not at executive level)

Books on Negotiation:

  • Negotiation Genius by Deepak Malhotra & Max Bozeman
  • Ladies Get Paid by Claire Wasserman
  • Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock & Sasha Dunbrooke

Websites for Specific Employment Information:


Lenore Albee is an executive coach, certified career coach, and retired management consulting partner. She is an executive business leader within with over 25 years of progressive experience including P&L responsibility.  Highly skilled in practice management, strategic development, mergers & acquisitions, contract negotiation, business transformation, business solutions, enterprise applications integration, business process outsourcing (BPO), information technology outsourcing (ITO), shared services, technology, and project management across industries.

Relevant Experience

Executive Coaching/Certified Career Coach
Consultant to Boards of Directors for both large & small (public & private) C-Suites and Boards of Directors
Extensive M&A Experience: post-merger integration, carve outs, and start-ups
Expertise includes strategy, coaching, digital transformation, finance, business transformation, organizational change management, organizational alignment, corporate governance, and outsourcing/offshoring

Board Experience includes: International Business Institute; President, Historyonics Theater Company;  Treasurer, Greater Missouri Leadership Challenge; Support Dogs, Inc.

Guest Lecturer Olin School of Business, Washington University in St. Louis & John Cook School of Business, St. Louis University. Topics include: The Consulting Mindset, A Career in Consulting, and Negotiation

Mentor to high-tech and life science start-ups